I hate nursing. Hate it. I am horrible at it, and I hate it. I don’t think I’ve ever tried harder to do something that I suck worse at. Despite the fact that I’ve nursed each of my babies for at least six months, I would consider myself a complete and utter failure when it comes to nursing.
Nursing hurts. I’ve never felt pain like I do when a baby latches onto my boob. It’s an excruciating, blinding pain. It makes me cry just thinking about it. Now, I know that it’s not supposed to hurt. I’ve been to see the lactation nurses approximately 11 billion times. I show them my sad, sorry looking nipples with their open wounds that won’t stop bleeding. They offer suggestions and support. Only none of it helps. I’m a hopeless, bloody mess. I’ve tried it all—different positions, lanolin cream, nipple shields (they make the baby scream and refuse to latch on, then I start to sweat and panic, then we’re both crying—right back where we started). Apparently I just suck at nursing.
A few days after Baby No. 4 came home from the hospital, my husband found us upstairs in the bed, getting ready for a feeding. Only the baby was lying in my lap, wailing, as I sat there, sobbing uncontrollably, unable to bring myself to let her latch on because I knew the pain that would come with it. Snot was running down my face, onto the baby. The baby wanted to eat. The thought of letting her latch on made me want to die. I couldn’t do it.
And I continue to do it. Why? Because of guilt. Because if I don’t do it, I am the worst mom. Because only useless, garbage moms don’t nurse their babies.
Now, to be clear, and this is important, I DO NOT think this about other people. I would never judge someone for not nursing. Never. In fact, I often offer encouragement to other moms who are having trouble nursing by reminding them that the goal is to the feed the baby—whether that’s formula or breast milk, as long as the baby is fed and healthy, then they are doing the best job. And I truly believe that.
My older three children all had formula once I stopped nursing them. And they’re all perfectly healthy, happy kids. The formula didn’t kill them. I know it to be true. And I encourage others to do what is best for their sanity and well being. Only when it comes to me, I don’t let myself believe it. I can only hate myself for hating nursing. And man do I hate it. I tell other moms to be kind to themselves. I remind them that they’re doing the best they can. And yet, I have trouble being kind to myself.
I consider quitting every day. And then I get mad at myself for considering quitting. Pregnancy hormones are crazy, but I’d argue that postpartum hormones may be even worse.
I try to remind myself that everything is going to be OK. One way or another, we’ll make it through this. I just wish that raw, bleeding nipples weren’t part of the equation.